Lenawee Christian Builds on Historic Win

October 12, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ADRIAN – Adrian Lenawee Christian gave a whole new meaning to Sweet 16 last week.

The Cougars and their roster of 16 strong won their biggest game in program history Friday, beating the No. 1 team in last week’s Associated Press Division 8 poll – Pittsford – to clinch a playoff berth and share of the Southern Central Athletic Association title.

It was the first time Lenawee Christian won a conference title and the first time the Cougars have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back years.

“It was a big night,” Lenawee Christian head coach Bill Wilharms said. “It was senior night, parent’s night and our last (regular-season) home game. I’m just so excited for the kids. They’ve worked so hard. There were only 16 of them Friday, but they came to play.”

Lenawee Christian never trailed, although the game was tied briefly in the third quarter. The Cougars put up more than 400 yards of total offense against previously unbeaten Pittsford and a defense that had recorded two shutouts and allowed just five touchdowns all season.

Adam Baker, the Cougars’ starting quarterback, was sensational, throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for the game’s opening touchdown and picking up a team-best 70 yards on the ground. What was even more impressive, Wilharms said, was his junior signal-caller’s calling of the plays at the line of scrimmage.

“There were a couple of times where the play would happen, and I’d think to myself, ‘Okay, that was a good play. I don’t know what it was or where it came from, but, hey, it worked.’”

Baker said there were times when he got to the line of scrimmage and saw something different from the defense that warranted an audible.

“When I got to the line of scrimmage, if I saw something, I would just motion to my receivers or tell my line what to do,” Baker said. “I would signal something and change the play.”

It’s a credit to Wilharms and his staff that an experienced quarterback like Baker can make those adjustments on the fly.

“I think Coach has a lot of trust in our team to recognize the things that are happening out on the field,” Baker said. “He trusts us.”

Wilharms said Baker studies film and knows what he is doing.

“We’ve got a lot of things built into our run-pass option offense,” he said. “There are a lot of wrinkles. Adam does a great job of reading the defense. He made some fabulous reads. He went to his second or third option several times. It shows that he is a third-year quarterback.”

On the season, Baker has completed 95 of his 150 passing attempts for 1,289 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 391 yards. One of his rushing attempts in particular ignited the LCS players and fans Friday night.

“We ran a sweep and Baker lowered his shoulder and got a few extra yards,” Wilharms said. “Plays like that are big for a football team.”

Lenawee Christians runs the spread offense with multiple looks and a deep crew of receivers. In the Pittsford game alone, Baker connected with seven receivers. Some teams go a full season without seven different players catching a pass.

“We’re trying to do some different things out of the spread,” Wilharms said. “As long as our line can give Baker time in the pocket, we can really sling it.”

The line that Baker operated behind Friday did a great job, especially considering senior Jack Leisenring, the team’s biggest player, was out with an injury.

“We have a sophomore that is about 210 and one of our freshman lineman is about 145,” Wilharms said. “The younger kids have really stepped up on the line. We try to do things to take advantage of their quickness because they don’t have a lot of size. Our kids came to play against Pittsford, who is a tough, physical team. They knew they were going to get hit, but they took it on.”

The SCAA has just four teams – Pittsford, Climax-Scotts, Athens and LCS. Climax-Scotts has committed to 8-player football next year while LCS was undecided until this month, when it informed the other SCAA schools it will maintain an 11-player team in 2019. The middle school and junior varsity Cougars already play 8-player, but Wilharms said he believes the numbers will support an 11-player team at least one more season.

“We only have three seniors and a big junior class,” he said. “If we keep who we have, we should be okay. Scheduling might be tough. We will probably have to hit the road to find teams.”

But no one is thinking about next year yet. Lenawee Christian is among the top-five ranked teams in Division 8, and the Cougars could land the first home playoff game in school history. They will travel tonight to play at Blanchard Montabella, and the Oct. 19 game against Detroit Universal Academy will go into the books as a forfeit win. The Cougars have never won a playoff game.

Baker said the team got excited after its win Friday, but he and his teammates know they still have work to do.

“I mean, sure we beat the No. 1-ranked team in the state, but there is always room for improvement,” he said. “You can always get better. That’s what we did when we went back to practice on Monday, just worked and worked to try and get better for this week.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lenawee Christian quarterback Adam Baker follows his blocker during last week’s win over Pittsford. (Middle) Cougars coach Bill Wilharms checks out his play chart. (Photos by Stacy Kline.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.

“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”

Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.

“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.

Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.

As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.

He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.

“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.

John GuilleanGuillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.

“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.

Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.

At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.

“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”

Great anticipation

Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.

In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.

Derek GriblerGribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.

“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”

Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.

“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”

In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.

“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.

“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”

Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.

“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”

Big shoes to fill

As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.

Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.

Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.

Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.

“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.

As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”

His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.

He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.

“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”

Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.

“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.

“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)